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Shrek The Musical - Nottingham Theatre Royal Review

Reviewed by Mark Johnson
Tickets were gifted in return for an honest review.

“I believe” repeats the audience in the rousing curtain call number of ‘I’m A Believer’ and this Nottingham audience were right on board with Shrek The Musical as the current UK and Ireland tour visits the Theatre Royal.

Brandon Lee Sears as Donkey, Joanne Clifton as Princess Fiona and Antony Lawrence as Shrek. Photo by Marc Brenner

The musical based on the 2001 (yes really!) Dreamworks animated movie which in turn was loosely based on William Steig’s picture book of the same name has enjoyed success both on Broadway and in the West End since it premiered in 2008.

This new production is a new staging under the direction of Samuel Holmes and Nick Winston. It retains all of the magic of the film and recreates those beloved characters superbly on stage.

The story centres on the titular orge, who has his quiet life on his swamp interrupted when a bunch of Fairy Tale creatures arrive having been banished by Lord Farquaad. Farquaad is in the process of finding a Queen with his eyes set on Princess Fiona who is locked away in a tower protected by a fire breathing dragon. Shrek meets Donkey who forces himself upon the ogre as he travels on route to Duloc. Once arrived in Duloc, Farquaad agrees to clear the swamp again if Shrek rescues the Princess and off we go with twists and turns along the way. 

Taking on these characters is no easy job but Antony Lawrence takes on Shrek with real confidence, he carries the role really well, both showing the fierceness and the heart. He melts down beautifully to be love struck with Princess Fiona. Vocally he conveys the voice of Shrek well, not trying to be Mike Myers he does his own thing and is just as memorable. 

Joanne Clifton shimmies, smiles and shines as Princess Fiona. Whether it’s dancing, singing or burping it’s clear how much fun Clifton is having in the role, this is possibly her best stage work yet. She interacts well with Lawrence creating that key central relationship, the duo have lots of silliness during ‘I Think I Got You Beat’ with the fart and burp machine turned up to 1000. 

Joanne Clifton as Princess Fiona and the company. Photo by Marc Brenner.

Brandon Lee Sears is instantly loveable as Donkey. He is bursting with energy and glides around the stage with effortless ease. His strong soulful vocals delight as does his comedy timing. Sears can get a reaction from the smallest of glances or looks and that makes him perfect casting for the role.

James Gillan is a tremendous villain. He manages to stride the campness line just right. With a toss of his hair he shows attitude, Farquaad may be more akin to a pantomime villain but Gillian delivers the role so well you are just swept along with it all.

In terms of vocals, which are strong throughout the company it’s a knockout Cherece Richards as Dragon who has a show stealing number‘Forever’. The vocal delivery is by Richards is phenomenal, she is a real star to keep an eye on. Georgie Buckland also impresses as Gingy and Elf, her warm stage presence is lovely to watch.

The company all take on multiple roles throughout which is no mean feat here. One minute they can be playing the fairy tale roles the then can be a guard or a dancing rat. Every role is characterised well. Winston’s choreography is clean and befits each character with great thought and the movement from the company is excellently brought to life.

The production would require a numerous large scale sets that may not be the easiest to tour and therefore the use of Nina Dunn’s 3D animated video design combines with Philip Witcomb’s set design to bring the world to life. It’s an impressive combination of video and onstage props that are used to tell the story. Ben Cracknell's rainbow of lighting adds further to the jeopardy, romance and warm feelings you get from watching the show with Ben Harrison's sound creating a further sense of scale to the production.

The story does feel very pantomime without being a pantomime and the production at times could benefit from not taking itself so seriously, and maybe even breaking the fourth wall a little more. The second act suffers in the pacing as the story slows down from the fast-paced first act.

David Lindsay-Abaire and Jeanine Tesori’s music is full of rich ballads and the occasional full ensemble number. The act one finale ‘Who I’d Be’ is a fantastic number delivered by Lawrence, Clifton and Sears. The numbers get a little stilted in the middle third of the second act as Shrek and Fiona both can’t admit their true feelings, you can feel the younger audience members losing a little attention. ‘Freak Flag’ sung by the company of Fairy Tale creatures brings the whole thing back up again energy wise.

Whether you come in as a fan of the film or not this production delivers undeniable great viewing for all ages. There’s laughter and humour aimed at both the children and adults. The superb characterisations are endlessly fun to watch. It’s big, bright, colourful and orge-sized entertainment.


Shrek The Musical plays at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal until Sunday 24th March. Limited tickets remain from

The tour is booking until the 4th May with the show playing a summer run at London’s Eventim Apollo from 19th July until 31st August. Tickets for the tour and London are available from

The company with Antony Lawrence as Shrek. Photo by Marc Brenner

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